creating an unforgettable talent experience; it’s a priority at Cisco.

May 29, 2018 Jill Larsen

If there is any doubt that organizations are investing to create a memorable experience for talent, just look at some recent examples from some of the world’s leading employer brands. Global employers such as Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, Accenture and others are leading the way by enhancing the employment journey for both permanent and contingent talent. This exceptional level of engagement is driving greater access to high-quality talent, increasing productivity in the workplace and the retention of valued workers.

One company among leading talent experience practitioners is the networking and cybersecurity giant Cisco, whose recent efforts to transform its employer brand have been supported by innovative measures to improve workplace engagement. According to author Jacob Morgan, Cisco ranks 12th among more than 250 global organizations in creating a memorable employee experience. Examining company culture, use of technology and the workplace environment, Morgan created an employee experience index and ranked these businesses according to their scores. Cisco garnered notably high marks for its corporate physical space, technology and culture.

How does the world’s largest networking equipment provider achieve such an engaging workplace for its employees? According to Jill Larsen, who most recently served as the company’s senior vice president of HR and talent, it starts with setting expectations, which she says is critical in today’s highly transparent talent marketplace. By being authentic and forthright in the way the company portrays life at Cisco, it gains the trust of both candidates and internal workers.

“Cisco has, as part of its employee value proposition, something called Our People Deal. Cisco takes the idea behind the People Deal and connects it to both internal and external audiences. It clearly states what you should expect from the company as an employer and what the company expects of you as an employee,” she explains.

Cisco’s People Deal credits all of its innovations to its people and explains how the employer-employee relationship is conducive to creating an inspirational workplace. Supported by the #WeAreCisco social media campaign, the company’s employer value prop (EVP) details the promises to and benefits for its employees.

According to Larsen, the company’s recent efforts to enhance both the candidate and workplace experience is part of an effort to reshape its employer brand more than 30 years after the company was founded. With Cisco re-strategizing its business in recent years, it is also building a value proposition that really resonates with the high-quality talent the company needs to consistently innovate. Personalized experiences are also essential, helping Cisco forge deep and lasting goodwill among talent.

“Cisco really thinks about the many elements of the People Deal. It views everything as a moment that matters to talent. For instance, when you have your first life crisis, how does the company show up for you as an employer?” Larsen points out.

How Cisco supports its workers also has roots in its use of technology to foster collaboration and innovation, Larsen says. She highlights that Cisco is very cognizant of the different needs and requirements of its multigenerational workforce, and makes a concerted effort to address unique ways of working for talent across all life stages.

“There are different buying habits for these different generations,” she explains, noting that expectations among younger workers are that employers will offer the same collaborative and on-demand technologies they’ve grown accustomed to having in their personal lives. “Companies that don’t provide those perks or technologies will struggle to engage with those workers.”

For Cisco, this isn’t a problem as collaboration technologies are one of its core product pillars — Webex, the ubiquitous conferencing technology, was acquired by Cisco in 2007. As a technology giant, the company’s culture and workforce are further enabled by both its own and other cutting-edge tools.

transparency and engagement

To ensure a strong approach to engagement with all talent, Cisco is actively making its workplace transparent to job seekers and candidates. Larsen points out that through employee review sites and greater sharing of information among workers, companies have less control over what is said about their employer brand. While this can help workers to have a greater sense of what life is like at any potential employer, some of the chatter can be arbitrary. “Whether the things said are valid or not, there are not a lot of checks and balances. It’s all out there for people to see,” she adds.

To ensure Cisco’s employer brand is well managed, Larsen points out that the company not only monitors review sites, but also the views of applicants that have been passed over for jobs. The company tallies net promoter scores (NPS) given by unsuccessful candidates to ensure that they maintain a positive perception of the business, regardless of whether or not they’ve been hired. She says doing so has helped talent leaders more clearly see the wide number of touch points that Cisco candidates encounter during the recruitment process, and how hiring managers interact with those individuals. The feedback provides insights on how the technology leader can enhance its candidate experience.

The importance of creating a strong and positive candidate and workplace experience has elevated the company near the top among many well-known corporate enterprises, but Cisco’s efforts are not unusual. In fact, in Randstad Sourceright’s 2018 Talent Trends research — a global survey of more than 800 human capital and C-suite leaders in 17 countries — employers cite technology investments to create a better talent experience as a top area of increased spending this year. Cisco has simply stood out in the impressive breadth of its efforts.

Larsen also believes technology will help create a more personalized experience for the 550,000 job applications Cisco processes each year. She points out that recruiters will see continuous upgrades in tooling to help them unload the minutiae of their jobs and focus on building relationships with talent. “The digital piece of the workflow will come and help companies deliver a more personalized feel to the process,” she adds.

To learn more about how employers around the globe are approaching the talent experience through HR technology, employer brand, candidate experience and employee engagement strategies, get the Q2 2018 Talent Trends Quarterly report: “navigate the talent experience.”

About the Author

Jill Larsen

Industry leader, Jill Larsen is chief Human Resources officer & EVP at Medidata Solutions. Formerly, she served as senior vice president of HR and Talent at Cisco. During her tenure there, she transformed Cisco's talent acquisition team and aligned them to Cisco's cloud and software transformation by implementing innovative recruiting and sourcing initiatives, executing a robust talent brand and social media strategy and driving next-generation talent pipelines. Jill also served as the global HR leader for Cisco's Services organization, which includes 14,000 employees and $12B in revenues. In addition, she launched Alpha HR, an initiative that has been a catalyst for a number of disruptive talent approaches to accelerate Cisco's people transformation.

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